Pokemon Go fever has reached epidemic proportions, far moreso than Niantic, the company working with Pokemon, anticipated. This can be seen through the continuous crashing of the game’s servers due to a ludicrous number of players.
Pokemon Go was reported to have been downloaded at least 15 million times, but statistics suggest the number is much higher now.
Earl Harmon, 36, who is starting his senior year at UCF in the fall pursuing an English major, said there could be as many as 300 players on campus playing Pokemon Go at night; however, he feels safety is not a concern because there are so many players.
“If you place an incense and it allures and attracts players there for ill intent, 50 people are coming there. They will have one or a few people to go against 50? I’m not so sure,” Harmon said. “They might get the first person who shows up and they may kidnap or rob them, but by that time, they will have already encountered other players on their way.”
Luis Mendez, 22, a junior psychology major, said he feels it may actually be safer to play because people will be less prone to commit acts of crime when surrounded by so many people that could potentially be witnesses.
Mendez first saw news of Pokemon Go’s release on his Facebook account. A few days later, he finally decided to play with the help of a little nudge from his sister and a friend. He has been addicted ever since, even staying up until 5:30 a.m. playing on campus.
“Pokemon Go creates an environment where I can easily acquaint myself with others and socialize since the game gives us much in common,” Mendez said. “Just today I spoke with five different people who I otherwise would have never spoken to. It helps me have more interactions with people.”
Harmon had a unique encounter with other students thanks to the game’s gym system, which allows players from the three teams — Mystic, Valor and Instinct — to join forces against each other and struggle for virtual control of real-world landmarks.
Harmon described how Mendez, who is on Team Instinct, met face-to-face with a stranger who happened to be his in-game teammate. When the gym located on Memory Mall came under attack from another team, they banded together to defend it from the takeover attempt.
Matt Ceriale, 22, a senior criminal justice major, chimed in that after encountering other players so frequently, people often engage in conversation, give each other playing tips, exchange information and schedule Pokemon Go play dates.
“It has the capabilities of bringing people together, potentially helping expand networks and build relationships that could be helpful in various aspects of life,” Mendez said. He also pointed out that the game’s augmented reality features encourage players to get up, get out and get moving.
“The more players there are in an area is directly influenced to how many Pokemon there are to spawn,” Ceriale said. “I saw a video of a rare Charizard spotted in Central Park, and then a massive crowd of people running to [catch] it.”
Mendez said he had seen similar mad dashes for rare Pokemon on the UCF campus.
“This happened at UCF, too, recently,” Mendez said. “I saw about 50 people in the Student Union yesterday. A guy screamed out, ‘There’s a Pokemon over there!’ and because it was a rare one, everyone got up and started running over.”
Pokemon Go has the ability to bring people together in unexpected ways, Harmon said. The gyms give people a place where they can get together and either join teams or be on opposing forces against each other and fight, but it will always be in all good fun.
Amanda Pham is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future.